Monday, January 25, 2010

My Process, Part III: The Art

When the text is shaping up and I have the basic story down (or at least I think I do) I start making thumbnail sketches and laying the book out. The page goal is usually 32 pages, although since Wink has decorative end pages, it was closer to 40. But it's always an 8-count because that's how the printers work. You also want to keep in mind that some pages are for pasting down and copyright info and a title page - so I'm not doing art for everything. I think a general rule of thumb for laying out a 32-page picture book is to start the story on page 5 or so.

That's what you see above - some sketching out and crossing out. Actually, none of those lay-out designs were used, but the basic ideas were.

For example, in the first layout (and I know it's light, sorry) The Lucky Dragon touring bus has dropped Wink and Grandmother off at the Summer Moon School for Young Ninjas. That became the second spread of the new book, but I changed the layout around.

What you want is an even, well-paced story. You don't want five words on page six and thirty-five words on page seven. You want to control your story flow. This is my least favorite part of the process because there's not easy way for me to do it. I just start and try things out and scrap a lot until I get it all balanced.

Then I do a sort of teeter-totter back-and-forth fine tuning of the art (sketches) and story until I think it's pretty tight. Then I can make some nice, finished art (just 2 - 3 pieces) and sketch the rest out for a dummy book.

(Note: You only have to make a full dummy book if you're working with new people. When I bring project ideas to my current editor, I don't have to go quite this far.)

For anyone who doesn't know, a dummy book is a practice book. It's a rough draft. As you can see, I've done the cover in full color art and there are several pages inside with full color art. But the rest is sketched.

Here's a shot of a sketched layout in the dummy book and then the finished layout in the published book.

Things change, obviously. But the dummy should represent a good idea of what the book will be. Editors will look at it and see how the story flows, see if they like your style or writing and art. They'll be able to tell if this is a project they love or not. And if they love it - there's a whole team of people at the publishing house to help you develop it.

See all those extra ninjas up above? It was my editor suggestion to narrow it down to three key ninja students throughout the book. Now there's a glasses ninja, a braid ninja, and a stocky ninja. They're kinda like Wink's Pips. My editor and I also collaborated on Wink's look here. I only wanted him to be in the pink curtain outfit, my editor suggested the flowers. (I'd be at fault if I didn't say that pre-sale, my agent, Scott Treimel, also helped a great deal in the shaping of the story.)

Once you have your dummy book (I got mine bound at Kinko's) you're pretty much ready to go. This being my first main dummy book, it took several levels of completion before we sent it out. Then, when we (my agent and I) agreed it was good to go, I made four copies to show. My agent handled it from that point. (That bit is just to let you know it's a time consuming process. You also go through a decent amount of ink and if you want it to look good, you need to print on really nice paper. The cost and time adds up.)

Here's an illustration from Wink that I made for the dummy, but we ended up changing the layout. I include it here to give a more detailed look at what a typical J. C. Phillipps illustration looks like. The bulk of it is cut paper. The wall was painted with watercolors. And the posters were made of cut paper, then scanned, shrinked? shrunk? to size, then cut again for the illo. So there's a combination of techniques. (Also, check it out, Master Zutsu was once named Master Rein! Zutsu is so much better, don't you think?)

That's my process of building a story.


Joseph said...

Wonderful! Thanks again for taking the time to do these posts. I thoroughly enjoyed them and loved getting that extra insight into the way you work.

Julie_c said...

My pleasure, Joseph. Thanks for reading.

Z-Kids said...

I've really enjoyed these! I love seeing Process... Thanks!
- AZ

Julie_c said...

Thank you - Z-Kids - for stopping in.

Kjersten said...

Great posts Julie! Thanks.